JERUSALEM - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo changed a long-standing U.S. policy Monday, saying Jewish settlements in the West Bank do not violate international law. Israeli officials warmly welcomed the statement; Palestinians are furious.
Pompeo made the controversial statement in Washington.
"The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law. The hard truth is there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict and arguments about who is right, wrong as a matter of international law, will not bring peace," Pompeo said.
A United Nations spokesman said there was no change in its policy toward the settlements, which is that they are illegal according to international law.
Overnight, four rockets were fired from Syria at Israel, and were shot down by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Israeli officials said they believed the rockets were from pro-Iranian groups.
It was not clear if there was a direct connection to Pompeo’s statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately welcomed the policy change, calling it historic.
He said the Trump administration had ended the lie that these settlements are illegal, and called it a great achievement for Israel’s policy.
Pompeo’s statement came as Netanyahu is expected to be indicted on a series of corruption charges next week.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat called the American statement “a total departure from international law and the rule of law."
"They are replacing international law with the law of the jungle by saying settlements are legal. Jerusalem is Israel's capital, defunding UNRWA, they are really shutting the doors of international law and opening the gates of extremism, terrorism, violence, corruption, bloodshed and people to be forced to believe that the only ways to solve problems [is] through violence and not through peaceful means."
Since U.S. President Donald Trump took office, he has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as well as Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights. Analysts said Pompeo’s statement could be the first step toward the Israeli annexation of at least parts of the West Bank.